Dorchester, one of the country’s leading publishers of romance novels, has announced that they’re eliminating their print division and will publish in the digital format exclusively.

This is huge.

Following a 25% drop in sales (their figures), they’ve decided to make the leap. Very good. Very forward-thinking. They’re right out there on the cutting edge. BUT…

If they charge $7.99 for their ebooks, they’ll find very little success.

Here’s my take on it.

It looks like their thinking runs this way: “Well, let’s cut out all our expenses involved with print books–you know, all that ink and paper and shipping and stuff–and let’s just shovel digital books into the e-world. It costs nothing to ship! With our expenses slashed, we’ll make a ton of money.” This, of course, fully assumes that readers will pay as much for an ebook as they will for a mass market paperback.

This is the kind of thinking that often paralyzes corporate America.

The people who made this decision certainly realize it’s a big leap. Therefore, their primary instinct is to cover themselves. To insulate themselves from blame in case something goes wrong and their corporate higher-ups, who I imagine in Dorchester’s case would be their board of directors, start looking for heads to chop off.

In order to properly create this ass-covering, they no doubt prepared lots of fancy charts and slide shows indicating the growing popularity of e-readers, Amazon e-tail figures, steadily declining hardback sales, and so on. So in the midst of all the dogs and ponies, they slip in the $7.99 number without any evidence whatsoever that it might be the optimum price.

And certainly without any evidence that there could well be a consumer revolt against paying the same price for an ebook as they would for a paperback.

Problem is, they’re afraid to take the final step that might really bail them out. Namely, presenting their product at a competitive price. Afraid because, remember, they have to cover themselves, and a $2.99 price leaves them no cover at all.

I mean, you can’t sell a novel by an established author for $2.99. We’re getting over $25 for a hardcover right now! $2.99 is what all those wannabes sell theirs at, right? “Real” authors and publishers can’t stoop that low, right? Besides, we’ve still got expenses, right? Even after the original slashfest. We’ve got editors, office space, utilities, management people, marketing people (wait a minute, aren’t authors supposed to do their own marketing now?). So we have to charge $7.99 per book, right? Right?

I’d be willing to bet money that, during their meeting when this change was approved, nobody made any mention at all about the rising trend of established writers self-pubbing their own material on Kindle and making money at it. They’re continuing to live under the myth that all self-pubbed books are crap and beneath contempt. So for a New York publisher to get into the cesspool with self-pubbed authors would just be incomprehensible. Oh, the humanity!

Of course, now that I think about it, even if they deigned to sell my ebook for $2.99, would they give me a 70% royalty?

So then, apart from editing and a cover, which I can farm out to indie editors and artists, what can they do for me that justifies their giving me anything less than 70%?


By the way, my rock & roll novel, Cadillac’s Comin’, a hard tale of a rockabilly one-hit wonder who recorded for Sun Records in the 1950s, is up on Kindle for $2.99.

But wait! There’s more!

It’s now on Smashwords for only $1.99. That’s right. You read it correctly. Only $1.99! So you don’t forget, order before midnight tomorrow.

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  1. Hi! I came over from the Kindleboards. I read through your excerpts, and I have to tell you, they all leave me wanting more. Good writing!

  2. Mike Dennis

    Thanks, ICQB. My novel THE TAKE is coming out pretty soon. I’m putting the cover on a new post, so check it out.

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